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We’re fortunate to be alive in this day and age for many reasons. For example, thanks to modern medicine and psychology developments, we now have access to a plethora of safe treatment options for a wide array of mental health disorders. Although they are far from perfect, and there is still a lot more research to be done, let’s take a brief look at the development of psychotropic medication over the years.

The History of Psychotropic Medication Development

Before a series of breakthroughs in the late 1940s and 50s, the state of psychotropic medication was quite grim. Before that point, lobotomization was a widely accepted means of calming violent and emotional patients. It was touted as a “miracle cure” after the first lobotomy was performed in 1935. Medical professionals also relied on substances like chloral hydrate, bromides and barbiturates to treat mentally ill patients. In reality, the only thing these “treatments” actually did was sedate patients.

In the 1950s, studies helped to implement better treatments for mental disorders. For instance, French scientists observed that the newly developed novel antihistamine chlorpromazine could effectively treat psychotic disorders. This allowed patients who were previously in institutions or asylums to reassimilate into society again.

As advancements continued in the field, scientists discovered that increases in serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine levels were firmly tied to improvements in symptoms of depression in patients. Years down the line, we still use medications to target these same neurotransmitters.

A Change in Approach

The rapid progress made in the 1950s created a framework that is still used to develop psychotropic medication today. The FDA refers to this framework as the Drug Development Process. The process ensures that each newly developed drug is closely monitored with a series of in-depth checks before it makes it to the consumer. The process generally takes 12-15 years to complete and bring a new treatment to the public. After that, the FDA continues to monitor the drug to confirm it remains a safe choice for public consumption. The years leading up to that point consist of rigorous research, iterative testing on animals/ humans and a final in-depth review of the findings.

While we’ve come a long way since the days of resorting to dangerous and ineffective methods for treatment, we still have a lot of room for improvement. There are many different psychotropic medications available to treat various conditions; however, it can be challenging to find the most effective ones for each unique person. Many patients go through years of trial and error with their doctors before finding real relief from all of their symptoms.

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